Happy February, everyone! We made it through the longest month of the year. I know other months have 31 days also, but January is eternal.
Maybe the deepest days of winter have been weighing on me, but I feel like I’ve been entirely too serious here lately, and I haven’t talked enough about my books in recent weeks. I’m dedicating February to The Taurin Chronicles–just four posts that dive a little bit into the characters, plot, and setting of the books.
I’m kicking off this celebration-of-all-things-Taurin with the women of The Taurin Chronicles and how they represent some of the stages of a woman’s life–from pre-puberty to menopause and all the badassery those stages represent. These are not all the stages, but they are some pivotal ones.
Gangly Foal Stage, Represented by Lyra Reilly
If the name isn’t familiar to you, Lyra (StillWater) Reilly is the child of the host body Logan is using and that man’s human wife; I introduce Lyra in chapter five of Unquickened. She’s about ten or eleven when we meet her, just on the cusp of puberty.
I don’t intend to minimize Lyra by calling her a gangly foal, but that’s how Logan sees her when he first arrives at her homestead:
Not yet grown, she had the awkwardness of a gangly foal and the beauty of a woman beyond her years. Tall and slender for her age, her body could have easily passed for a young boy’s if she wore a heavy cloak, but her hair hung in dark curls nearly to her hips. She walked among the livestock in the pens around the home, feeding, checking hooves, offering the occasional scratch behind the ears in a perfunctory but gentle way. Logan thought she had the look of a girl who knew her daily routine but didn’t particularly care to perform it and did so only out of obedience.
Lyra is in a that pre-pubescent stage where her body doesn’t quite feel right–where changes are happening, her arms and legs are too long, and she isn’t sure whether she wants to climb trees or dress up in lace and frills. With no memory of her mother and only a grandfather to raise her, Lyra’s only real female influence up to this point in her life is the neighbor woman.
Having been at that stage myself and watching countless other girls go through it, let me just say–it sucks. I know that age sucks for boys, too, but for girls… There are all these weird smells and weird hairs and weird pains, and you worry constantly that you’re too early or too late with everything, and you don’t really know what’s expected of you, and you’re not especially sure you’ll like it if you do know. And somewhere in the whole mix of things, someone tells you to expect to start bleeding once a month for several days, which sounds terrifying and pointless, and then you end up wondering if you are too late or too early with that, and you worry that everyone will see, and…
All of that.
And poor Lyra–she’s marked by multiple tragedies, so it’s kind of a wonder that she’s still sweet and willing to trust anyone.
I left Lyra in Igraine’s capable hands at the end of Unquickened. Despite her flaws, I’m not sure there’s anyone else I’d trust more to shepherd a girl into her young adulthood than Igraine. I think Igraine will be blunt and forthright about it all, but she’ll also have compassion. Most of all, she’ll teach Lyra to trust her “spideysense” when it comes to men.
Idealistic World-Changer Stage, Represented by… Well, All of the Major Players
I think Igraine, Minerva, and Mairead all fall into this category, as do many other minor female characters. Part of that is due to the fact that the series focuses mostly on people in their 20s. I don’t know about you, but my 20s were my period of peak idealism.
The three main ladies sort of manifest that idealism in different ways, though. Igraine’s idealism is big and loud. She wants equality for women, and she’s willing to risk her security and safety to get it, as evidenced by this exchange between her and Braedan in Ravenmarked:
He tipped his head and ran one finger around the edge of the goblet. “I should have you taken to the dungeons for insolence.”
She tossed her head and scoffed. “Best be about it, then. And I’ll be writing my father the moment you do.” She held out her fists as if waiting to be chained. “D’ye have the shackles here, or will ye be calling a guard?”
If Igraine were an American woman in the 1960s, she would absolutely be protesting every injustice she could find. Her idealism would fuel her, certainly, but pissing off her rich, traditional parents would be a significant bonus.
Mairead is also bold, but where Igraine’s boldness is akin to a tsunami, Mairead’s is the steady flowing river. She simply keeps moving inexorably toward the right things, gradually changing things merely by her influence, and refusing to yield unless she has a damn good reason. Witness this exchange between her and Connor from early in Ravenmarked:
She fixed him with a fierce gaze, and her mouth tightened into a stubborn line. “I’m a servant of the Order of Sai Atena. It’s my duty to look after those less fortunate. Would you like it if I told you who to kill and who to spare?”
Gods, this woman! “That’s different.”
“How? You do your job. Let me do mine.”
The difference between Igraine and Mairead, I think, is that Igraine confronts and Mairead leads. Igraine is more than happy to go toe-to-toe with anyone until her opposition backs down from sheer exhaustion. Mairead just keeps walking forward, doing what she thinks is right, and expecting people to follow–and they do.
And then there’s Minerva, my overthinking, introverted academic. Minerva is just as idealistic as the other two, but she’s quiet about it. If you need a treatise to justify your protest, she can write you one. If you want an ancient text to support your theories, she can find it for you.
All three of these women represent the idealism of our 20s–that era when we still think we can do anything and everything, when we’re sure that we can change the world. We haven’t been too beaten up yet, and even if we have, we still have the energy to heal.
And then we have kids.
Mom of (Mostly) Grown Kids, Represented by Maeve and Alfrig
I’m going to skip the Mom of Young Kids stage at the moment, mostly because my young female characters aren’t quite there yet in their lives.
But there are some Moms of (Mostly) Grown Kids hovering around the set. I think Maeve is the most representative of this stage, even though she only has the one grown-up kid. (Let’s be honest, though–Connor is basically like five kids in one. He’s a lot.)
Maeve is tired. She’s had her idealism, she’s had true love, and she’s had a reasonably decent career, and now she’d really kind of like to have some grandchildren and a long nap. Unfortunately, her son tends to make decisions that cause her no small amount of frustration–as when he married Mairead in Bloodbonded:
“She’s not your wife.”
“Yes. She is.”
A tense silence fell in the clearing as Maeve evaluated his words. Her face turned to chiseled, stony anger, and Connor thought the wilderness around them had quieted in the way it does when a predator approaches. “You’ve wed without my consent?” she finally said.
“I don’t need your consent. I’m a duke of Taura. I have wealth and a name of my own that does not depend on you.” He took a step closer to her. “I have wed Mairead, Mother. Your only choice is whether you will accept her as your daughter or not.”
Of course, part of letting go of these adult children is watching them come face to face with their bad decisions and redeem them. Sometimes, we even get to watch them make good decisions–even when we don’t see the value in their decisions at the time. Maeve didn’t approve of Connor’s marriage at first, but she changed her mind, as evidenced by this exchange with Mairead in Unquickened:
Maeve hesitated, and then she drew Mairead into a sudden, fierce embrace. “Be safe, daughter,” she whispered.
“And you, Mother,” Mairead said, returning the embrace. “I think perhaps we have more in common than we thought.”
“Neither of us is very good at taking direction from men.”
Mairead laughed as she drew away from the queen. “There is that.”
Alfrig has learned these things, too, but she’s had more kids to watch–three sons, three daughters. Her children had a very traditional tribal upbringing, but I’m sure things were not always rosy. (One of the things you realize when you start to compare notes with other moms of older teens and young adults is that no matter what it looks like on Facebook, things are never perfectly rosy.) Alfrig’s life was a well-lived one. She fulfilled her duties to her husband, raised children who went on to do good things, served her tribe as a guardian, and even got to hold some grandbabies.
If I can say the same at the end of my life, I will be content.
Menopausal Truth Teller, Represented by Rhiannon
The Menopausal Truth Teller stage of life is one I am so, so ready for. I want to say what I want, when I want to say it, with that Ouiser Boudreaux kind of energy, and have people excuse it as, “well, she’s just a crazy old lady.”
It’s true that menopause brings back the weird smells, weird hairs, and weird pains, but you’re also done with a lot of the young woman crap you have to deal with for most of your life. This stage can certainly coincide with the Mother of (Mostly) Grown Kids stage, but I think it’s just a step further. It’s a stage where you no longer give one single fu… well, you know. Your field of “effs” lies fallow, and you don’t really care who knows it. You have no compunctions about smacking muleheaded men upside the head or telling young women they deserve better than what some jackass is offering. And you probably knit and putter a lot while you mutter words that may or may not be acceptable in polite society.
This stage is capably represented by Rhiannon, who I think is probably in her mid-50s. Rhiannon has absolutely zero desire to placate anyone at this point in her life. She’s lived on her own for a long time, and she’s pretty much done with everyone except her animals and the occasional friends who visit. Rhiannon has no time for nonsense–no matter what the source. Witness this exchange between her and Emrys, the villain of Ravenmarked:
Emrys wanted to test her. He wanted to flay her skin, show her the transgressions around her soul, and make her cry for the earthspirit. There are so many ways to bring me pleasure and you pain.
She took a step toward him. For a moment, her voice rang with the Voice of the one he feared more than any other. “I fear no man or spirit, demon or god. I am held by the One Hand. You have no power here.” The old woman smiled. “Enjoy your remaining days, forbidden one. When the raven comes into his power, you will have no peace left.”
I don’t know if I’ll ever be quite as bold or filterless as Rhiannon, but I do know that the closer I get to menopause, the more settled I become–but in good ways, I think. My faith is deeper, I’m more confident in my writing, and I’m a lot more content with my life. There are demons and regrets, of course, but the stakes just don’t seem so high anymore.
In short, I’m running out of effs to harvest, and I’m cool with that.
Next week, in honor of Valentine’s Day, I’ll be sharing some thoughts about the couples of The Taurin Chronicles. It’s a little sloppy and gooey, but in all the best ways. Have a great week, y’all!